Given his 30th birthday is already a matter of history, Dublin featherweight Stephen Ormond knows he needs to gamble on a few short cuts if he is to fulfil his world title ambitions.
A former three time All-Ireland champion and seasoned international in the amateur code, the high-energy pressure fighter has racked up 15 wins in 16 starts since belatedly moving to the profession, aged 25, back in October 2008, with the WBO European belt to show for his endeavours.
This Saturday (7th December), the boy they call ‘The Rock’ puts his future at world level on the line when he travels over to Liverpool to defend against local warmonger Derry Mathews, the reigning Commonwealth king, at The Echo Arena. It’s a ‘pick’em’ fight which effectively doubles as a world eliminator.
To discover more about the defending champion, boxing writer spoke to Ormond’s mentor Paschal ‘Packie’ Collins - younger brother of former two weight world champion Steve Collins –who has managed and trained the Dubliner for the past three years.
“Stephen Ormond first came to my attention when he fought on the same show as my middleweight ‘Spike’ O’Sullivan over in Killarney (Ireland) about five years ago. At the time he was based in Ireland whilst I was still based in the USA.
When I returned to Dublin to open the Celtic Warrior Gym, Stephen came along to me, following a spell in New York training under (ex two weight WBA world champion) Joey Gamache .
As a fighter, I liked Stephen’s work rate and that he just loved to fight. Boxing was his life. Of course, he’d been a world class amateur who’d beaten (future WBC super- middleweight challenger) Andre Dirrell in the amateurs.
And as an individual, I admired his honesty. He opened up to me straight away. I told him what I could realistically do for him and explained if he felt he could get better elsewhere he was always free to leave. I’ve never been big on contracts. If something works, it works. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.
Also, it was immediately apparent that Stephen was an intelligent guy. If they’ve no brain, you can be flogging a dead horse but Stephen listened carefully, then practised hard.
However, initially, he’d throw a million punches, really fast combinations, which is all well and good, but he wasn’t settling (his feet). His big weapon was always his left hook so we emphasised that he needs to land just one that really hurts the guy as opposed to three which ‘tickle’ him.
Also, he was very one sided. For a shortish lightweight, he’s got a fantastic jab because his speed and timing are so good. But he never threw the right hand. We’ve corrected that and now it’s his best punch. He’s stopping opponents and hurting several others in the gym.
He’s improved massively, largely because he’s started to believe in himself. He knows he’s good but is starting to realise he could be great. Though he’s been inactive for periods, he’s always been in the gym learning and, each fight, we we’ve been able to add a little bit more.
Stephen’s got very much a US style because, until recently, I’d only worked in US gyms, firstly with the Petronellis in Massachusetts, then Freddie Roach in California. I teach him the US way. His biggest plus is his great engine. He sustains the same high pace from first round to last. He’s just like a mini Manny Pacquiao; hits you with ten then he’s gone, then keeps repeating that.
For most good judges, Stephen is still unbeaten. No one I know had him losing to Paul Appleby. He jabbed Paul’s head off. TV had him winning seven rounds to three and even Paul was shocked when they announced he was the winner. And that was two years ago when Stephen had had only 12 fights. He’s much improved since then.
The professional scene in Ireland is a little slow at the moment so, for an Irish fighter to advance their career, it’s essential they take risks. Twice we accepted fights with Kevin Mitchell but both times they fell through.
Derry Mathews is a big name who’s performed on Sky several times. It’s a risk going over to defend against him in Liverpool but it steps up Stephen’s profile. An impressive victory will make people take note and possibly allow us to start promoting Stephen as a headline back in Ireland. That way, he can enjoy the advantages and start to make a few bob.
Derry Mathews is a terrific fighter who should definitely have fought for a world title after all he has achieved in the game. I’m not saying he’d necessarily have won but he’s certainly earned the right to challenge.
Derry’s biggest attribute has to be his power and that’s the last thing a fighter loses. He also has huge self-belief, is prepared to fight all the big names. He’s very game, always shows up in great shape and is a huge crowd pleaser who sells a lot of tickets. From press conferences, he also seems a very nice, respectful kid.
But the reality is that, whereas Stephen is effectively unbeaten, Derry’s lost eight and drawn two of his fights. That’s about a quarter of his fights which he hasn’t won so he has to have a few flaws. In several other fights, such as Tommy Coyle, he was getting beat out of sight before his power got him out of jail. He reminds me a lot of Micky Ward in that regard.
But there’s a lot of pressure on Mathews. He knows that a loss will probably signify the end of his career. He knows he’s had a lot of wars and must be a little shop worn. It’s my belief that Stephen Ormond is going to ruin Derry as a fighter. My biggest worry is that we don’t get fair play from the referee and judges. You saw what happened in the Froch-Groves fight the other week.
But Stephen knows what it takes to beat Derry Mathews. We have a game plan which obviously I’m not going to disclose but we’ve added a few additions for this fight.
You reap what you sow and we’ve sown so much. Because we know it’s Stephen’s opportunity to step up, we’ve thrown all our money into this fight.
We’re using exactly the same training camp my brother Steve used for his last seven world title fights and that Kevin McBride used when he stopped Mike Tyson. We’ve employed a psychologist who’ll get our game plan implanted into Stephen’s subconscious, increasing his awareness, ensuring he sticks to it.
Stephen wins because his engine will be too much and he’ll want it too much. He’s just so hungry for it.”
December 3, 2013